Armenians Erupt in Fury Over Defeat in Conflict With Azerbaijan

MOSCOW – Russian peacekeepers were deployed to the controversial Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday after Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a Russian-brokered treaty to end a six-week war in which thousands had been killed.

Some Armenians were furious that the country’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed the agreement that Azerbaijan ceded a large piece of land and several key cities that Armenia had effectively controlled since 1994.

Opposition politicians called for Mr. Pashinyan’s resignation while demonstrators broke into parliament and beat its spokesman, Ararat Mirzoyan, who was in need of an operation. Protesters also stormed the prime minister’s office where, Mr Pashinyan later said, a computer and a watch were stolen.

Amid the turmoil on Tuesday morning, Mr Pashinyan announced on Facebook that he was in Armenia and continued to work as Prime Minister. The country’s leadership tried to convince the public that they had no choice but to end the fighting now, as Armenia had suffered significant loss of life and territory.

“We have proven once again that we have invincible soldiers, officers and generals who are ready to sacrifice their lives without a second thought in defense of our holy motherland,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement. “But it’s time to stop the bloodshed.”

Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan, said he was woken up at 3 a.m. by screaming and honking car horns. But there was also a growing sense of resignation among the Armenians, he said.

“There is a general feeling on the streets that we had no choice, that this was the best alternative to save the remains of Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Giragosian.

There was pain too: the lush mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh, known to the Armenians as Artsakh, have long been part of a national and ethnic identity for Armenians around the world. The loss of that territory on Tuesday already happened in the annals of tragedy in Armenian history, along with the slaughter and expulsion of Armenians from Turkey a century ago in what most neutral historians call the first genocide of the century.

“The trauma of victimization has returned,” said Giragosian. “There is a feeling that the world and the West have left us.”

“We lost the war and this is the tragic reality that we should accept,” said Tatul Hakobyan, an Armenian journalist who has covered the region for more than 30 years, in a telephone interview.

Mr Hakobyan said small arms fire could be heard from the capital, Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert, on Sunday, suggesting Azerbaijani forces were approaching. Azerbaijan in recent days captured the mountain town of Shusha, which is six miles from Stepanakert and a historical and treasured place for Azerbaijanis and Armenians.

Three armistices that both sides have negotiated since the war began have collapsed. The latest agreement is different, however, as Armenia accepts Azerbaijan’s territorial gains and is enforced by Russian peacekeeping forces who will be present for at least five years.

“We assume that the agreements reached create the necessary conditions for a lasting and comprehensive solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis on a fair basis and in the interests of the Armenian and Azerbaijani people,” said President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who said the Brokered agreement between Pashinyan and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, said in a statement overnight.

Under the agreement, around 1,960 armed Russian soldiers and 90 armored personnel carriers will be deployed to protect the line of contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces in the region and along the road between Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. On Tuesday, the Kremlin-controlled RT television station broadcast footage of Russian military vehicles leaving the Armenian border town of Goris for Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Armenian Defense Ministry announced Tuesday morning that fighting along the front line had ceased and Russian peacekeeping forces were being deployed. In Azerbaijan, Aliyev described the agreement as one of his country’s greatest triumphs.

“We are proud of our people, of our armed forces!” Mr Aliyev said in a Twitter posting on Tuesday. “These are the happiest days for our people.”

The end of the war signals a major redrawing of the security map of the South Caucasus, a volatile region between Turkey, Russia and Iran. The deal sealed a role in the region for an increasingly assertive Turkey, which had supported Azerbaijan in the war that began in September.

Mr Putin has spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at least three times since the war began, most recently on Saturday. Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, hailed the agreement as a “great success and victory for Azerbaijan”.

But Russia’s leading role in ending the fighting also shows that Moscow remains the most influential actor in the South Caucasus, which was part of the Soviet Union. Some Armenians had hoped for a stronger Russian role in the war, since the two countries have a mutual defense treaty.

However, according to Armenian journalist Hakobyan, it was Russia’s decision to deploy peacekeeping forces that spared Armenians from more Nagorno-Karabakh – including Stepanakert – coming under Azerbaijani control.

“Smart and sober Armenians understand that the Russians intervened and in a certain way saved Karabakh,” said Hakobyan.

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